Legislative Roundup, Week 15

17 is Key

As the week of April 17th kicks off, the number “17” may prove crucial as the Nebraska Legislature debates a series of enormously consequential tax and education bills throughout the week that may come down to whether 17 senators participate in filibusters. What to watch for:

Tomorrow: First up is LB640 (Groene), which takes $224 million out of the Property Tax Credit Fund and sends it as state aid to school districts with the heaviest reliance on property taxes. As noted in the Lincoln Journal Star, LB640 would ease property taxes in rural areas while increasing property taxes in urban areas.

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Legislative Round Up, Week 14

The battle over taxes became a lot clearer last week as the Revenue Committee advanced LB461 (Smith), a package of income and property tax cuts that, as amended, would cost the state $458 million a year when fully implemented. The bill includes elements of LB337 (Smith) and LB338 (Brasch), the Governor’s tax plan proposals, as well as elements of LB452 (Lindstrom). Amended together in LB461, this creates a mega tax cut plan geared primarily toward wealthy Nebraskans.

The Open Sky Policy Institute says as much as 74% of the cuts would go to the state’s top 20 percent of income earners. Open-Sky Policy Institute Executive Director Renee Fry told the Lincoln Journal Star:

“This tax package is irresponsible policy. It does little to help the middle class but will force year over year cuts to higher education, K-12 schools, public safety and other vital services.”

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Priority Threats

Since senator and committee priority bills have been announced, let’s look at a few of the bills that could have negative impacts on low-income and marginalize people this session.

LB337 (Smith) – In what many advocates think is our largest threat in terms of budget and taxes, Senator Lindstrom prioritized the Governor’s income tax proposal, aimed at giving substantial tax cuts to the wealthiest Nebraskans. In a time of drastic cuts to curb our budget deficit, this bill seeks to take even more funds away from priorities, when the state isn’t even meeting its current obligations, like funding our corrections system. Advocates are preparing to put all hands on deck to fight this one.

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Legislative Round Up, Week 5

The Power of the Purse

Last week served as a preview of the future budget battle for the biennium budget as the state grapples with a $900 million revenue shortfall.

State Senators expressed their grievances last week over the Governor’s deficit budget cuts (cuts he wants to make to the current year budget that was already approved), before ultimately advancing them to Select File (the second round of debate before Final Reading). Senator Bob Krist and others criticized the Governor for withholding appropriations to state agencies. Others also criticized the Governor for not calling the Legislature into a special session to address the deficit cuts.

The Nebraska Constitution gives the Legislature the “power of the purse.” The Legislature was able to make significant changes to the Governor’s proposals, including protection of funds to support people with developmental disabilities and funds to reduce prison overcrowding.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 4

Rules Fight Continues

State Senators spent nearly all of last week’s floor debate fighting over the adoption of permanent rules, and have come to no agreement on how to move forward. As Don Walton notes in his latest Lincoln Journal Star column, the battle is:

“more than just inside baseball” because “changing the number of votes required to sustain a minority filibuster could be a major factor, perhaps even the key factor, in determining or shaping legislative decisions on huge issues like tax cuts, budget priorities, state funding for the University of Nebraska, the very shape of Nebraska’s future.”

In past sessions, sustaining a filibuster has come down to a single vote or two. Expect this battle to continue. Legislative staff are trying to pull together “interesting material” for floor debate.

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